New Zealand v England, 2nd Test, Wellington, 4th day March 17, 2013

England bowlers feel the strain


If England's pace bowlers came to New Zealand hoping for pitches with a bit of life and nice carry for the Tests, they will have been disappointed. By accident or design, the slow surfaces have made for some attritional cricket and, coupled with weather that has deteriorated faster than the pitches, it has meant some long stretches in the field.

A week ago, it was New Zealand feeling the strain after a 170-over stint in Dunedin and now it is England's turn. The pace bowlers lacked vigour on the fourth day in Wellington with the overs racking up against each of their names. The main concern has surrounded James Anderson, who has spent the last two days regularly stretching his back, but it is being put down to the aches and pains of the day job rather than anything more serious.

"Injury-wise, he's fine," David Saker, the England bowling coach, said. "I think he's just struggling for a little bit of rhythm. The high standards he sets, he'd probably say he's below his best at the moment. Test cricket's a hard game, and it takes its toll on fast bowlers. He knows how hard it is, and I think he'll be fine.

"Some days you just have to go out there and get on with the job, and not complain about it. We're not complaining about it. Some days you're going to be sore, but that's the job."

This Wellington pitch is far from the springy, seaming surface where James Anderson made his comeback in 2008. In New Zealand, there has been a trend towards slower, lower Test pitches which are certainly in contrast to the surfaces on show for the Twenty20s and ODIs earlier this tour which often flew through to make for compelling action.

New Zealand have probably seen slower wickets as a way of narrowing the gap between the two sides especially after the confidence-sapping performance during the Tests in South Africa. Some of their batsmen were also uncomfortable against the bounce of Steven Finn during the ODIs. That is what home advantage entitles you to, and there is nothing wrong with it, but seam bowling is also one of New Zealand's strengths and perhaps could have been backed a little more. For them, England's 167 in Dunedin is appearing to be an anomaly.

"If you watched the Twenty20 and one-day games, they were played on very good and fast wickets - which produced some good cricket," Saker said. "The two Test wickets we've played on have been quite opposite to that.

"I don't know whether that's something that New Zealand Cricket would put out, or just the way the wickets are. Just from where I'm sitting, I always like to see the ball get through and the batsmen playing off both front and back foot ... seeing catches behind the wicket always excites me."

Finn has been the most disappointing of England's pacemen in this series - in contrast to his new-found batting status - and while Saker admitted he would enjoy from more life in the pitches he also knows it is part of the development process Finn has to go through.

"He would benefit from a wicket that bounces a bit as well, but he has to learn as well to get the batsmen coming forward, and try to get them out that way," he said. "He again is probably struggling a little bit, with his rhythm. He's started with a new run-up, and is still a young player trying to find his way in Test cricket. We're pretty patient with him, and we're going to stay that way."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 18, 2013, 8:42 GMT

    @Patchmaster on (March 18, 2013, 2:40 GMT) Interesting point but the problem is England were playing in India shortly before this series started. If NZ weather is anything like the English weather , it's hard to predict exactly when the weather will be dry in advance. Some country's fans who moan about the weather etc in England , because by and large they have more consistent weather don't know how lucky they are

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2013, 2:48 GMT

    NZ through all of the doubters and haters have pulled above their weight this series so far. They have fought far harder in this series than in many in the last few years and I believe are actually ahead of England so far. England have the lowest innings score and NZ has the highest. We also can't blame the pitches after the driest NZ summer for a very long time.

  • Ed on March 18, 2013, 2:40 GMT

    As a New Zealander , it's so hard to understand why these matches are being playing in Autumn ! Really, not a great advert for NZ cricket, just at a time when we needed some global exposure of all the right kinds.

  • John on March 17, 2013, 22:42 GMT

    @G.Sri on (March 17, 2013, 17:11 GMT) Because of the weather we had little choice in the pitches we prepared but once more thanks for your input. It (our bowling attack)wasn't good enough to beat the awesome SA side although we competed well (bowling SA out twice - OK SA declared when 9 down in the 2nd test) - but was good enough to win our last away series. Who was that against again?

  • david on March 17, 2013, 20:42 GMT

    i dont blame NZ for preparing pitches that they think are best for them. this pitch seems to have plenty of pace and bounce on saturdays plays for what i saw. maybe if they had prepared the same type of pitch as the aussies did in he last aus v nz series and took the chance. i know they beat the aussies well in the 2nd test and would have been a larger margin other than a fluky warner 100 .but i suppose after the SA series a drawn series they would be happy with, having come away from the 1st happy enough.

  • Michael on March 17, 2013, 20:29 GMT

    It is so disappointing that our only test cricket of the summer has been restricted to the vagaries of autumn weather and to such poor pitches. One game left, at the always disappointing Eden Park, and then the test season is wrote. Sigh, at least we have a three test tour by India to look forward to in 11 months' time. That is, if the BCCI deigns to stand by its international commitments.

  • Nicholas on March 17, 2013, 19:02 GMT

    Maybe this is just me after playing a lot of uni. cricket on 'astroturf-like' pitches (seriously!), but is anyone else really surprised and somewhat disapponted that international players and pundits these days moan too much about the state of pitches - instead of getting out there and practice, practice, practice on lifeless, unassisting pitches? This will teach them to pitch the ball fuller and make the batsmen play! It forces mistakes, and makes use of whatever little movement through the air there is. Cricket must be played to suit the pitch, not pitches made specially to suit cricket! Within reason of course... I've seen matches called off because of 'dangerous' pitches!

  • j on March 17, 2013, 17:28 GMT

    It's a pity that practically the entire series has been ruined by rain. Although it does gives England to put their feet up and take in just how badly Australia are doing in India!

  • Srinivasan on March 17, 2013, 17:11 GMT

    If you talk about preparing seaming tracks, why didn't you prepare a seaming track last summer against SA? The pitch was very green when India visited but it was completely bare when SA came. What about that? If you can't roll a team ranked #8, don't blame on pitches. Isn't this attack was called so-called "best attack in the world" by english pundits?

  • GARY on March 17, 2013, 15:19 GMT

    @ TheBigBoodha I wouldn't call making NZ follow on struggling in these conditions, they've bowled very well considering how flat the pitch is. Also apart from that game against SA last year where else have England struggled to take wickets on pitches like this in recent times, I can only think of twice including the first game, name them.

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